It isn’t often l at all that I use the word hate, but oh how I hate the word remission. People will ask how my health is now, coming from a kind and loving place. I will let them know that I am all clear and leave a happy oncologist every few months. And often their response, again from a good place is “oh so you are in remission then”.
I hate that word! Remission…meaning the cancer cells are hiding, hibernating, regrouping to hatch an evil new plan to try and attack my body again. Like there is no choice, but I must sit and wait for them to re-activate and the ticking bomb inside me will once again explode leaving it’s poisonous shrapnel in its wake in order to have to fight those cells again.
I do not choose to live that way. My cancer is gone! It became terminal, not me! It is not “in remission” to lie in wait until I am distracted only to try again. It is gone, eradicated with the help of a highly specialized medical team, and no more likely to come back in me than in anyone else. This is what I choose to tell myself (and believe most days…until it is time for a checkup again and the niggling fear returns for a few days/weeks). But when someone asks if I am in remission, no matter how vehemently I explain that the cancer has been gone since my last chemo, it still shakes my foundation, my core, and strikes fear that must again be fought back.
I talked with my cancer centre psychologist yesterday and we chatted about that little niggling bastard of fear that exists within me, and how perhaps I can use that as a bit of a check in. What am I really afraid of? Am I truly afraid of having to go through treatment again or am I more afraid that I am actually not fully living with this second chance at life I have. And what defines fully living for me? There has had to be a whole lot of adjustments and re-calculating of that definition for me over the last few years, something that will always need to continue as it does for everyone as we ripen. When I was going through treatment it also meant learning to let some things go, physically and mentally, in order to save my energy for the good stuff, the stuff that would fuel my spirit.
I had been spending too much of that energy and focus on work alone. This week I took some vacation time and spent 2.5 days playing in my yard, getting downright dirty building flowerbeds (a task I likely would have wanted to hire out even before cancer because it seemed daunting). It was a whole lot of work and my bath scrubbie will never be clean again, but as I played in the dirt, slathered in sunscreen, worked hard to rip out sod and fight strong-willed quackgrass roots, I was smiling.
2 years ago tomorrow I finished chemotherapy. Last spring my ex-husband very kindly came and spent 2 days doing the spring maintenance of the large yard because I was undergoing breast reconstruction and just couldn’t do it. My great-nephews mowed my lawn for me last year because that movement was painful with the reconstruction. But this year I was celebrating health and strength by completing some tough tasks independently (after some hand-holding by a compassionate friend to help me purchase what I needed, instructing me how to install the rubber lining). I get to watch for my beds of wildflowers to grow instead of fearing something could be growing inside me.
So my friends you see, I am strong, I am healthy, and (even if I must still go back for follow-ups) I choose cancer free, that it is just plain gone, so (pardon my language) fuck that word remission!!!
With love (and a new bath scrubbie), Glenna